The Southwest: Places to Explore

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Tralee

County Kerry's capital and its largest town, Tralee (population 22,700), is a superb springboard to explore the adjoining Dingle Peninsula. It is also the transportation hub of the region. As such, people used to joke that the only good things to come out of Tralee were the buses shuttling travelers elsewhere. To a certain extent, that is still the case: apart from some Georgian town houses near the museum there is not much of architectural or antiquarian interest. Modern renovations, including concrete piazzas (which attract crowds of drinkers on weekends) have done little to ameliorate Tralee's medium-size-town-with-little-character feel. Accordingly, however, there are no tourists, so the local folk have been fashioning some worthwhile sights, including the town museum, and the Siamsa Tíre—the National Folk Theatre of Ireland—which stages impressive dances and plays based on Irish folklore.

The town has long been associated with the popular Irish song "The Rose of Tralee," the inspiration for the annual Rose of Tralee International Festival. The last week of August, Irish communities worldwide send young women to join native Irish competitors; one of them is chosen as the Rose of Tralee. Visitors, musicians, and entertainers pack the town then. A two-day horse-racing meet—with seven races a day—runs at the same time, which contributes to the crowds.

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